One of our favorite sites, the airfare prediction site Farecast, is spreading its wings today and launching a beta pricing service for hotels as well. The service works for the top 30 U.S. travel destinations.
Using hotel inventory data from partner sites Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and ReserveTravel, as well as from its own historical database, Farecast can now tell you which hotels in the area you're looking to book are good deals, and which are not. And, just as it does with airfares, Farecast can tell you which hotels' prices are likely to be better if you change the dates of your stay.
Farecast displays hotels that match your search on a Microsoft-powered map. Bookings that are good deals (reservations that cost less than they normally do for the particular hotel) are color-coded in red. Poor deals are in blue. If you click on any hotel, you get a graph that shows how the hotel's prices fluctuate over the days before and after your trip.
It's interesting that Farecast doesn't color-code by price, but rather by amount of discount from the historical average. Thus a $400 booking can be a better "deal" than a $200 hotel--however, the high-priced lodging is likely to be at a five-star hotel, while the cheaper room can be found at a lower-quality location.
The system will let you know, visually, if you're traveling at a bad time. If all the hotels you're looking at are bad deals, there's a good chance that there's an event in town that's driving up prices. Farecast also has data about local events, Farecast's Mike Fridgen told me, but it doesn't display this information in this beta.
This new hotel price-finder feature is quite useful, and Farecast does an extremely good job of displaying its data and predictions. I would recommend using it for your next booking.
(The one thing I really would like to see added is integration with Farecast's airfare system. It'd be even more useful if the site could combine airfare and hotel info to help you pick the best dates for a trip. That's on the road map, Fridgen said.)